More than 80 students had the opportunity to learn from police officers, fire and emergency officials and members of the media during the Austin Independent School District’s second annual Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T) summer camps.
The camps are part of the district’s GREAT program led by the Joint Juvenile Gang Intervention Unit, comprising of detectives from the Austin ISD Police Department and Austin Police Department. GREAT, which began in AISD in 2007, has been designed as a prevention strategy for student delinquency, violence and gang membership. The program targets children before they are introduced to gangs and delinquent behavior, and tries to build a sense of respect and community involvement.
During the summer camps, officers build on the school-based curriculum to help students enhance their social skills, find alternatives to gang involvement and add structure to their daily schedule during the summer months.
“GREAT provides life lessons that, if applied properly, will help students defer from delinquent behavior and gang activity. The summer camps also help build on lessons learned throughout the school year and provide a fun activity outside of the classrooms,” AISD Police Chief Eric Mendez said.
More than 80 AISD students attended one of the free camps, which were located at Widen Elementary School and Barbara Jordan Elementary School. Students saw presentations and demonstrations from AISD Police, the Austin Police Department (Mounted Patrol, Air Support Unit, and SWAT), the Austin Fire Department, Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services, STARFlight, and the KXAN news staff.
The students then gave back to their communities by cleaning large areas of problem graffiti in North and South Austin while working with the City of Austin Graffiti Abatement Unit.
“We are so appreciative of the talented leaders and police and emergency officials who volunteered their time. They have inspired our students by serving as role models, and teaching them a valuable lesson about community service,” said Detective Travis Pickford, of AISD’s Joint Juvenile Gang Intervention Unit.
The Joint Juvenile Gang Intervention Unit plans on expanding the camp next year.
For more information, visit http://archive.austinisd.org/schools/police/gangunit/.
Watch video highlights below from the two camps.
Widen Elementary School:
Barbara Jordan Elementary School: